HealthSouth Sentences Tossed

A federal appeals court in Atlanta threw out the sentences of Michael Martin and Richard Botts, two former HealthSouth officials who pleaded guilty to taking part in a widespread accounting fraud and agreed to help the government build a case against top executives.

Both men were sentenced to six months of home confinement and five years of probation. Prosecutors appealed the sentences as overly lenient. The appeals court tossed out the sentences and directed a lower court judge to provide a rationale for his "extraordinary departure" from the sentencing guidelines.


Toys R Us Chief to Resign

Toys R Us chief executive John H. Eyler Jr., who set the company on a path to its breakup, will resign after the retailer's sale is completed. President Richard L. Markee will succeed him as interim chief of the second-largest U.S. toy seller.


Ford Cuts Profit Outlook

Ford Motor lowered its earnings outlook for the full year by 25 cents from its April forecast, to $1 to $1.25 per share, citing continued weakness at its North American operations and "supplier-related challenges."

Ford also said it will cut salaried positions at its North American operations by 5 percent and reduce the use of agency and purchased services by 10 percent. It also will eliminate the 2005 bonuses for salaried management employees and suspend the matching grant in its 401(k) for salaried employees effective July 1.


KBR Wins $1.25 Billion Army Deal

Halliburton said its Kellogg, Brown & Root unit was awarded a five-year U.S. Army contract worth as much as $1.25 billion to provide services to troops in the Balkans and parts of Europe. The deal extends a contract awarded to KBR in 1999, Halliburton said.


Bond Board Wants Donation Ban

Regulators of the $2 trillion municipal bond market asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to bar underwriters of state and local debt from soliciting or coordinating contributions to political parties. The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board is addressing concerns that some underwriters may arrange contributions to political parties to get around restrictions on direct donations.


Late Mortgage Payments Decline

Late mortgage payments reported in the first quarter approached a five-year low, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's quarterly survey of almost 40 million loans.

The seasonally adjusted percentage of payments that were 30 days or more past due dropped to 4.31 percent, from 4.38 percent in the fourth quarter. Foreclosures also declined, with the process started on 0.42 percent of homes, down from 0.46 percent in the previous quarter.


Continental Goes to Mediators

Continental Airlines said it has asked the National Mediation Board to help it negotiate pay and benefit cuts with its unionized flight attendants. The airline said it wants pay and benefit cuts from the employees, who are represented by the Internal Association of Machinists. The mediation board has no authority to impose terms.

Other workers at the airline have agreed to reductions.


Newspaper Ad Revenue Climbs

Several newspaper publishers reported strong growth in help-wanted and online advertising revenue but that auto advertising remained sluggish.


Kroger First-Quarter Profit Up 12%

Kroger said its first-quarter profit rose 12 percent, to $294.3 million from $262.8 million in the comparable quarter a year earlier, to beat Wall Street expectations by a wide margin. Sales rose 6.2 percent, to $17.95 billion.

General Electric will require vice chairmen to lease corporate aircraft for any personal use worth more than $200,000 a year. Under previous policy, vice chairmen could use corporate aircraft for personal reasons without lease requirements, GE said in a regulatory filing.

Walt Disney Co. said it ended negotiations to sell its Disney Store chain in Europe because there was no interest from retail companies and the business is improving.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.

Supermarket chain Winn-Dixie said it will close 326 stores, cut 22,000 jobs, try to sell some of its plants and cease operations in Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas as part of its proposed bankruptcy reorganization.